Siberian tigers get new start in Free State sanctuary after death of predator park employee

Sibling Tigers Jasper and Jade during their relocation from Seaview Predator Park.
Image: Four Paws

The Siberian tiger which killed a predator park employee in Gqeberha has been safely relocated to a big cat sanctuary in the Free State.

Seaview Predator Park employee David Solomon was attacked and killed by the tiger, Jasper, on June 16 while the electric fence in the animal enclosure was being repaired.

The park said Jasper then jumped the exterior fence of another enclosure which houses Siberian tigers Judah and Amber. “A fight ensued between Judah and Jasper and Judah was killed. Jasper, being an (unneutered) male Siberian tiger, wanted the attentions of Amber, a female Siberian tiger,” the park said at the time.

The tigers were transported to the Free State sanctuary by road.
Image: Four Paws

After the incident, the park contacted The Aspinall Foundation to help secure a new home for Jasper. FOUR PAWS, which manages Lionsrock Big Cat Sanctuary – a sanctuary where breeding, hunting and animal interactions are prohibited – offered to home Jasper.

“The team decided that Jade, the eight-year-old female tiger [Jasper’s sister], should also be surrendered as they had been together their entire lives,” The Aspinall Foundation and Four Paws said in a statement on Thursday.

“The translocation operation was led by veterinary specialist Dr Peter Caldwell, who tranquillised both tigers and did final health checks. The team then loaded the tigers into Lionsrock’s customised tiger crates and loaded them onto two vehicles. They were then transported approximately 1,000km and released at Lionsrock on the morning of June 23, 2021. The tigers are both doing well and are adapting very well to their new home,” said the NGOs.

Dereck Milburn, The Aspinall Foundation’s regional director, who co-ordinated the operation, said: “This was a critical and complex operation to complete within a restricted time, to remove any further risk to staff or animals. We are very thankful that the tigers are healthy and that they get a second chance at life in a new ethical home. In many captive facilities, animals are seen merely as an object, may Jasper and Jade show that these are sentient beings we are dealing with, who should be treated as such.”

Fiona Miles, director of Four Paws in SA, said the situation elsewhere for tigers on SA soil was not as hopeful. “As tigers are not a native species to SA, and while they may be afforded protection under the Animals Protection Act, and globally the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, their exploitation in private keeping, intensive breeding for commercial purposes and the tourism industry is not protected by legislation in South Africa.

“While the country has recently made the landmark decision that it will no longer allow the breeding of lions in captivity for commercial purposes, tigers have been omitted from this protection. We believe there are about 1,500 tigers being kept in cruel conditions across the country that will continue to suffer if this is not addressed. The animals are bred for tourist attractions, petting and bottle feeding, while they are young cubs. Then as juveniles they are used in walk-with or photo prop opportunities before they are killed, and their parts and derivates used in illegal international trade,” she said.

Siberian tiger kills employee and another tiger at Bay predator park

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